First of all, no one looks good in a graduation gown; I’m pretty sure they were designed to look unflattering on everyone. The garment also means you can pull out a really lame joke about all of you wearing the same outfit. Thankfully, you can accessorize your cap so people can spot you in the sea of mortarboards.

Now that we’ve got that nugget of information out of the way, it’s time to recognize that high school is about to be over. Maybe you’re feeling ecstatic, sad, nostalgic, afraid or any combination of the gamut of human emotions. Many of you have probably been in a formal school setting since the age of 4, your weekdays from September to early June have been structured from roughly 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or later. And that’s going to change when you graduate.

If you think about it, graduating high school is a choice you make. Sure, adults can coax you into attending classes and preparing for tests to walk across the stage, but you made the decisions and took the actions to make this happen; it was you who said, “Yes, I want to graduate, and I’m going to make it happen.”

There were probably plenty of internal and external motivations for getting your diploma; when I graduated, one of my main motivations was attending college and getting away from the place I’d spent my entire life.

Some of you have decided to continue your formal education, others are joining military service, and a portion of you will start working full-time. You’ve decided what option works best for you now, and maybe the path you see yourself taking will stay the same or maybe it will change.

But, the most important part is that you get to decide; as an adult, you are more responsible for your choices and the consequences they bring.

Think back to when you were a child and how many decisions were made for you — other people were in control of how you spent your time, what you ate, what you wore, what time you went to bed, if you brushed your teeth, etc.

As you’ve gotten older, you have been able to determine how you live your life (and I really hope you still brush your teeth). And after high school, you’ll continue to have more control over your life. Maybe someday you’ll even have the opportunity to make decisions for other people.

I suppose I should throw in a bit of millennial wisdom to the graduates, which are part of generation Z. (That name will likely change as for a long time, my generation was called Y, because what else would logically follow X.)

Be ready to struggle whether it’s personally, academically, occupationally, financially or any other -lly. There are going to be times when things aren’t great, but if everything were always wonderful, we probably wouldn’t ever truly appreciate when life is going well. Keep finding ways to learn and discover what life offers; don’t close yourself off to opportunities; make sure you can laugh at yourself; and at least try eating pineapple on pizza.

The future is yours, so decide to do with it what you will.

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